Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hemlock Overlook Swings Back into Operations

Sharon Bulova, Chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors

Public/private partnerships are often praised as a model for better government. Last Thursday, elected officials, teachers, parents, children and neighbors gathered at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park in Clifton Virginia to celebrate a new public/private partnership with great promise. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) and Adventure Links kicked off a new operating agreement for Hemlock Overlook Regional Park with a celebration that included Fairfax County Board Chair Sharon Bulova and Springfield Supervisor Pat Herrity, flying through the canopy of the forest, on the parallel zip lines.

“The Regional Park Authority has moved at record speed to find a new operator for Hemlock Overlook after George Mason University announced that they would end their long operations here. We received the word from GMU on December 31st that they would cease operations by June 30th. NVRPA worked rapidly to put out a request for proposals, evaluate proposals from ten organizations and select Adventure Links as the right organization to run the programs at Hemlock Overlook. Adventure Links has over ten years experience in providing environmental education, team building and confidence building to children and adults. They are the perfect partner to take Helmock Overlook to the next level,” stated Su Webb, Chairman of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.

“Hemlock is just beautiful and offers a great backdrop for environmental learning. We are very excited to be operating Hemlock in cooperation with NVRPA and we look forward to a great partnership,” said Anna Birch, Adventure Links’ President.

Birch, members of the Adventure Links staff, as well as Bulova and Herrity offered their words in the shade of the forest, each noting the importance of the facility to the area. Sharon Bulova talked about the role of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority in conserving natural resources, and how conservation needs to be done from a regional perspective. NVRPA was founded 50 years ago with a mission to conserve the region’s most important natural and historic resources. Today NVRPA owns over 25 miles of contiguous parkland along the Bull Run and Occoquan Rivers, and over 13 miles of shoreline along the Potomac River. Hemlock Overlook is one of a string of parks that NVRPA owns on the Bull Run along the southern border of Fairfax County.

Supervisor Pat Herrity referring, to the famous zip line at Hemlock Overlook said, This is always something I’ve wanted to do. As a chaperone many years ago, I watched the kids zip down this line. But as a chaperone, we were never able to go. I’m going to change that today.” Then, in the moment of the event, Sharon Bulova and Pat Herrity went down the zip line together, to the applause of everyone there.

Pat Herrity, Springfield District Supervisor

The fun spectacle was a great way to open the new partnership to the public.
Hemlock Overlook has been a mainstay for students in area schools for years and a right of passage for 5th and 6th graders for decades.

“We knew we needed to find a new, dynamic partner,” said NVRPA Executive Director Paul Gilbert. “Anyone who visits Hemlock Overlook knows what a special place it is. We are thrilled to have found an organization with the energy and vision of Adventure Links. Adventure Links is offering field trips for area schools that incorporate Standards of Learning (SOLs) into a day of fun, adventure, and teambuilding.” Adventure Links is also offering teambuilding events for adult groups (companies and organizations) as well as summer camps and other programs for children.

“We are looking forward to a great year and are excited to have Adventure Links as a partner to bring new ideas and fresh, creative programming to Hemlock,” Gilbert added.

For more information or to schedule a program at Hemlock Overlook, visit or

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